Dilbert Bits 18.0
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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Thu, 4 Dec 97 17:27:05 -0800
Subject: Dilbert Bits 18.0
Excerpted-from: Dilbert Newsletter 18.0
by Scott Adams
DNRC Status Report
You may have seen a recent article in the Chicago Tribune that discussed a
link between cynicism and heart disease. The headline was this:
CYNICISM KILLS: 'Dilbert'-like attitudes found to increase illness.
The inference is that the Dilbert cartoon is killing people. I haven't
reviewed the science, but I assume they did a controlled study using The
Family Circus as the placebo. And since this is obviously not the kind of
study that can be performed on humans, for ethical reasons, I'm guessing
they used either monkeys or car salesmen.
For discussion, let's say it was monkeys.
I have this image in my mind of two groups of monkeys -- one group reading
Dilbert and the other group reading Family Circus. The Dilbert-reading
monkeys clutch their chests and fall dead. The Family Circus monkeys show
no change except an increased glucose reading.
If cynicism is unhealthy, then logically the opposite of cynicism --
gullibility -- is good for your health. For example, look at the
non-cynical Heaven's Gate people. They are now living in perfect health in
a spaceship behind a comet.
Key learning: Science is a good thing. News reporters are good things too.
But it's never a good idea to put them in the same room.
True Tales of Induhviduals
Because you can't get enough of those whacky Induhviduals (the people who
are not members of the DNRC), here are more True Tales as reported by DNRC
A friend from West Virginia was shopping at the Wal-Mart in Blacksburg,
VA. At the cash register, my friend wrote a check. The clerk asked for
her driver's license. The presented her West Virginia drivers license and
the clerk grabbed it way from her and scoffed at her, "If you're going to
use a fake ID, you could at least use a real state!" A manager was required
to verify West Virginia's statehood.
A report from a 9th grader:
Our school campus has twenty buildings spread over seventy acres. There
were two soda machines. Recently they added a third. I overheard the
workers arguing where to put the new machine. They decided to put it next
to the other machine because that way people would notice it when buying
drinks. There was one tiny flaw in that plan. The two machines sold the
same drinks, and the new one cost an extra 75 cents.
While shopping at the grocery store, I noticed that the tuna packed in
spring water was labelled dolphin safe, but the tuna packed in oil was not.
I mentioned this fact to the cashier and mused out loud, "I wonder why?"
She replied, "Must be because the oil would suffocate them."
The instructor was demonstrating the wonders of static electricity to his
class at MIT. While holding a plastic rod in one hand and a wool cloth in
the other, he told the class, "You can see that I get a large charge from
rubbing my rod..."
That was pretty much the end of learning for that day.
I worked for a while at a Wal-Mart store, selling sporting goods. As an
employee of Wal-Mart you are sometimes required to make store-wide pages,
e.g., "I have a customer in hardware who needs assistance at the paint
One night a tentative female voice came over the intercom system with the
(I kid you not) following message:
"I have a customer by the balls in toys who needs assistance."
I called my hair salon to tell them I'd be late for an appointment. I
couldn't remember the haircutter's unusual name, so I said, "I think her
name is 'Zora.'"
The receptionist said flatly, "We don't have anybody here by that name."
I said, "Check the appointment book and see who my appointment is with."
She checked and said, "Oh, your appointment is with 'Zoya.'"
So I'm wondering, how many of the six people working there have four letter
names beginning with Z anyway???
A long, long, time ago, when I was 19 or 20, I went to a bar with an older
friend. The guy at the door asked for my ID. I gave him my driver's
license, which of course had my date of birth printed on it.
He looked at it and said, "You have to be 21 to get in here." I replied,
"That ID is a few years old."
He looked at it again for a moment, then said "Oh, OK" and let me in.
At my previous company in the UK, a Quality Initiative made use of posters
around the office featuring parts of motivating words such as 'S CCESS' and
This was supposed to make you think that what was missing was 'U' (you).
However, to the joy of the staff, a hand-written addition to the posters
appeared. It was the single word: 'B LL'.
At a company during the winter months the static buildup due to the dry air
from the heating system was becoming quite a problem. People and equipment
were getting zapped constantly.
The receptionist was particularly hard hit as people were handing her stuff
all day. An enterprising engineer decided to connect a wire with clips on
each end from his sock to his shoe to ground the static. He was so proud
of himself that he went to the receptionist and proclaimed he had fixed the
He then proceeded to walk in circles dragging his feet to prove that it
worked. He reached his hand toward her to complete the demonstration. A
big blue spark flew from his hand to her closest body part (her left breast)
and she screamed like a wounded wolverine. It seems the clip had fallen
off his sock.
[Editor: I'll bet she was Thor.]
I am a medical student currently doing a rotation in toxicology at the
poison control center. Today, this woman called in very upset because she
caught her little daughter eating ants. I quickly reassured her that the
ants are not harmful and there would be no need to bring her daughter into
the hospital. She calmed down, and at the end of the conversation happened
to mention that she gave her daughter some ant poison to eat in order to
kill the ants.
I told her that she better bring her daughter in to the ER right away.
[Editor's note: Don't get your medical advice from the Dilbert Newsletter.
I suspect it's not always okay to eat ants, no matter how tasty they look.]
There's an automotive tire dealer in town with the following motto painted
in two-foot high letters on the storefronts of their several locations:
"If it's in stock, we've got it!"
The receptionist was instructed to call a vendor. Using the vendor's invoice
as the source of the phone number she began calling. Each time she called,
her phone would ring. When she answered, no one was there. This continued
throughout the morning. When later asked if she reached the vendor she
explained what was happening and demonstrated for her superior. He noticed
that the phone number she was calling (which was on the vendor's invoice)
WAS THEIR OWN PHONE NUMBER! She had spent an entire morning calling herself.
Free Sodas For DNRC Members
This report from the field describes how to get free sodas from Induhviduals.
Apparently, Induhviduals think I'm so cute and sexy that they like to buy
me sodas. The way they indicate I have a free soda waiting is by putting a
'This machine owes me...' sign on the machine. This is my signal to push
one of the buttons that is NOT lit up, and ta-da...another generous gift
from a cow-orker Induhvidual.
I like to get serious once a year in the Dilbert Newsletter. Here's a true
I was seventeen, working as a bellhop at the Sugar Maples resort in the
Catskill Mountains. Most of the guests were regulars. Families had been
coming on the same week each summer for generations. Many of the employees
were regulars too, so we knew a lot of the guests by sight. Some we knew
by name. Others by reputation.
The guests arrived on Saturday to stay the week. The bellhops lined up,
ready to carry bags and earn the standard one-dollar tip. Sometimes it was
fifty cents. If we got lucky, two dollars. But this week was special.
This was the week the Fish Man was scheduled to arrive.
We didn't know his real name. According to legend, the Fish Man made a
fortune in some sort of fish-related business. He was a self-made man, the
story went. But more importantly, he was a twenty-dollar tipper.
No other tipper was in his league. The Fish Man stood alone.
There were five bellhops and only one Fish Man per year. If it was your
turn in line, it was like winning a small lottery. Tradition dictated that
when you returned from carrying the Fish Man's bags, you flashed your twenty
and laughed above the groans of your hapless co-workers. The closing
ceremony was half of the fun.
That summer, I got the Fish Man. He was a big man, bright red hair, easy
smile, and an ample belly. He wore hideous vacation shirts and shorts. I
don't remember much about his family; they weren't the source of my tip.
I didn't talk to the Fish Man much -- just the usual bellhop-to-guest
patter. None of his bags were unusually heavy, so I didn't use my best
bellhop line, "Did you bring your rock collection?" No matter. The tip
was predetermined. When the Fish Man's wallet came out, it seemed like slow
motion. It was a field of green. He plucked a twenty from the pile,
smiled, and said, "Thanks." There was no explanation for the huge overtip.
I glided back to the main office, eager to complete the ceremony. The
bellhops groaned on cue. I think someone threw something at me.
Soon the money was spent. Twenty dollars didn't have any real financial
impact on me. But I never forgot the Fish Man. It was a mystery. The
whole point of tipping was lost at the twenty dollar level. There was
something else going on. It was as if he was posing a riddle:
"Why did I give you so much money?"
I worked on the riddle for years. Sometimes I thought I had the answer,
but the solution changed depending on my perspective. As a teenager, I
thought the Fish Man was showing off. When I became a banker, I thought
the Fish Man was making a wise investment to improve the service during his
stay. When I worked for the phone company I thought the Fish Man was
feeling guilty for having a virtual monopoly on money.
Lately, my perspective has changed again, and so too the answer to the
riddle. I am the same age as the Fish Man now. And I've had the same luck
that he had financially. I can see myself at seventeen the way he saw me:
naive, full of energy and ambition, no clue where the trail begins or where
it leads, and no idea how much of my soul I'd have to pay for the trip.
If he had offered his old-man advice, I wouldn't have listened to it. But
his twenty-dollar tip was the a message that couldn't be filtered out by my
seventeen year old brain. It drifted past my hormonal sentinels and landed
like a whisper somewhere deep in my unconscious. The Fish Man had already
taken the journey that was ahead of me. Maybe he was just going back to
light the path.
I would tell you the solution to the Fish Man's riddle, but it doesn't work
that way. I'm sure all the bellhops from the Sugar Maples have found
different answers by now. The one thing I can say for sure is that the Fish
Man got his money's worth from me.
You probably know someone who would benefit from your advice but won't
listen to it. Maybe this holiday season would be a good time to save your
words of wisdom and just be the Fish Man. Do something nice for someone
who hasn't done anything to earn it. In the long run, people find their
Happy Holidays, everyone. Thanks for making this a great year for me.
© 1997 Peter Langston